Most of us can’t see the flames, but we can feel you burning. Even in the cities, smoke hangs thickly in the air; the sky is smudged grey or, some days, orange; and the sun glows an eerie, unfamiliar red.
We see footage of fire leaping across roads and rivers, even climbing cliffs, as it advances through bushland.
We read of wildlife, in their billions — species only you can boast — that have perished or been left scorched and screaming.
We learn the names of the 28 souls lost in the inferno and see the photographs of children being pinned with medals as they stand beside their fathers’ coffins, too young to understand that their dad laid down his life to save us.
And we hear people on the nightly news, sobbing beside the crumbled bricks and mortar that once sheltered their family or their livelihood, mourning the precious mementos buried among the rubble.
Watch: Ben Lawson’s ode to Australia during the bushfire crisis.
For some of us far from harm’s way, these streets and shopfronts were the scenes of holiday memories. They flashed up, burning, blackened and barely recognisable, on our screens. ‘Oh no! The caravan park where Dad…’ ‘The bakery where Nan….’ ‘The playground where we….’
For the rest who’ve never been, it’s a sadness in knowing that a community like our own is hurting, grieving.
Or should that be a community that is our own?
Yes, we are 25 million individuals in different suburbs and towns and states, with divisions both real and imagined. But we are also an ‘us’, parts of a whole that make up you. Sometimes it takes crises like these to remind us of that.
That shared identity is how we see — and we show the world — what you’re really made of. Because you are not fire and devastation.